Robyn Burris, Friends of Library fulfill long awaited project
Eufaula will not forget those who gave their lives in the name of freedom.
In 1985, a small memorial was placed on the west side of the library in honor of the war dead.
But, it seemed inadequate in light of the ultimate sacrifices made by those members of the military.
“We wanted a more fitting tribute to the veterans of this county who gave their lives for our freedom,” then-Mayor Joe Johnson said in a newspaper article in July, 1990.
He and the Library Board earlier had launched a drive for a more meaningful tribute, which was to engrave the name on bricks of each person from the county who died in World Wars I and II, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam.
On July 27, 1990, the late Governor Henry Bellmon was in Eufaula to help the city dedicate the Memorial Bricks that were placed on a walkway on the east side of the library.
“We feel that everyone will be proud of what we have developed,” Johnson said prior to the ceremony in 1990.
The memorial consisted of 129 bricks, laid in place by inmates from the McIntosh County Jail.
Years later, around 2016, according to former librarian Peggy Jordan, the bricks were determined to be a tripping hazard and were taken up to be stored by the City of Eufaula, with the intention of putting them back in the future. Time passed and the bricks gathered dust in storage.
Over the years there had been committees to decide how to display the bricks, but nothing was ever completed, said Robyn Burris, Treasurer of Friends of Eufaula Memorial Library (FEML).
“Designs were being worked on to replace the bricks around the building, but as library personnel changed nothing was carried through,” said Burris. “Brittany Moore, then the library manager, took on the project in 2022 with the aim of having the bricks in place by Veterans’ Day of that year. That proved to not be achievable, but meetings were still held to create a design and find a place for the bricks.”
Burris said Lenore Bechtel, Friend and neighbor of the library, contacted Lee Rodriguez and received a quote to pour a concrete slab at the west entrance to the library.
He said the bricks could be laid and filled in with pea gravel. His quote was the most reasonable that the FEML group had received and the consensus was that this would be a good project.
However, Moore took another job at a library in Bartlesville this past summer.
Burris and FEML officers refused to let the project die.
One stumbling block was that a different kind of memorial, a stone block, was in the location where FEML wanted to place the bricks.
The 1885 stone was dedicated to “C.C. Spence, Supt. A.M.L. School and Trustees G W Stidham Sr, Wm Fisher, Geo Fisher, Wm McCombs, James Colbert.”
It was a dedication by “A.M.L. School.”
Burris noted that the school was the start of the United Methodist Church in Eufaula. The church started a school for Indians – Asbury Manual Labor School in 1847.
Burris researched the church’s history.
“There was the name Clark Spence in a list of those ‘who superintended this school and established Christian education as Methodist Ministers.’” Burris said.
What to do with stone memorial became an issue.
Burris contacted Linda Wendel, administrator of the Eufaula Area Museum.
Wendel had been told the stone was part of the old boarding school and they gave it to the library when the casino took over the space.
Wendel suggested that the library send a letter to the Eufaula United Methodist Church board and to the Muscogee Nation to determine if both groups are agreeable to donating the Memorial stone to the Eufaula Museum.
Until that time, the stone can be viewed on the lawn near the west entrance of the Library.
“I’m pleased you want to donate it to us,” Wendel texted Burris. “It’s a key piece that will illustrate the interlocking history of the Eufaula area wonderfully.”
The bricks will be in place for Veterans Day.
“City workers delivered them to the library on Monday, Oct. 30,” Burris said. “I spent two afternoons sorting them alphabetically by wars.”
The concrete pad was completed two weeks ago.
The FEML paid $1,600 for that part of the project.
“The city did not have bricks with the name of each war, which we believe were in the original sidewalk display. So the Friends of the Library and library personnel are also working on signs that will indicate the four wars represented: World War I, WWII, Korean Conflict and Vietnam.
Library Branch Manager Shymekia Adams and library assistants Tatum Honne and Danielle Burchfield are helping in the research of the Memorial Bricks and also organized the Veterans Day reception, which will take place on Friday, Nov. 10 at 12 p.m.
There are 129 Memorial Bricks at the Eufaula library, each with the name of a person who died in either World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict or the Vietnam War.
An 1885 stone memorial dedicated to a former superintendent and trustees of the Asbury Manual Labor School was located on the library’s grounds and has been replaced with Memorial Bricks. The Stone is expected to be donated to the Eufaula Area Museum.